Signs that they were destined for one another were everywhere: the plastic “engagement” ring Emily Kaplan found the night she met Greg Dodge, how Greg described Emily as having the “brownest eyes he’s ever seen” just like her father always told her, and the discovery of several friends in common. The signs were hard to ignore, even for Greg, who was not a natural believer in such cosmic powers. But six months later, he interpreted things his own way and proposed to Emily in a simple scene on the beach, witnessed by the couple’s two dogs and the powerful presence of fate.

With Emily, Greg and a sizeable portion of the guest list residing on the East Coast, the couple wanted its plans for a destination wedding to provide a true escape for those who would be making the trip. One of Emily’s favorite places is Santa Barbara; there was no venue better equipped to make her guests feel pampered than the Four Seasons Biltmore Hotel. To transport their guests to an alternate world, Emily and Greg and the wedding’s design team combined the natural colors of the California coastline with the bride’s love of Asian food and cultures to create a whimsical, hip and totally unconventional setting. “Scott [Corridan] described the look and feel of the room as a ‘Pacific Marketplace meets San Francisco Jazz Club,’” says Emily. “I think that’s really accurate,” she adds.

Setting the stage for the Cal-Asian theme, the couple sent out invitations adorned with orchids, the featured flower in the wedding’s décor. Every table in the reception room was unique with its own distinctive arrangement of exotic orchids, bamboo and candles set in brown rice and sugar, and custom “shades” made from Asian fabrics. Seating was at a mix of round tables with tall arrangements and long tables with centerpieces that ran their lengths, with every surface draped in ocean blue and earthen brown silk linens. At each place setting, a menu of the evening’s Pan-Asian feast was personalized with each guest’s name (it also served as a place card). And for those needing a breather from the main room, the terrace outside the ballroom was also transformed into a chic lounge with Asian furniture, chaises and silk pillows in the wedding’s nature-inspired color palette.

Another important element of Emily and Greg’s celebration was their desire to have a Jewish ceremony. In an effort to personalize the religious traditions, the couple was married in the round under a spectacular chuppah constructed of shorn fabric woven between bamboo poles. Instead of reciting the seven Jewish wedding blessings, Emily and Greg asked some close friends to compose and read their original interpretations of the blessings (with themes such as friendship and commitment). From their friends, it was a touching tribute to the bride and groom. Emily also walked down the aisle to “Here Comes the Sun,” which Greg remembers inspired the circular gathering of loved ones to hum along.

To enjoy the ritual of the cake cutting, the couple chose a small wedding cake decorated with blue fondant and a chocolate brown design. But the real dessert course was served family style on platters at each table. This was in addition to a generous hospitality suite that the couple hosted all weekend in the hotel’s cottage, where an expansive candy bar, designed in honor of Greg’ sweet tooth, appealed to guests’ inner children. The bride and groom gave each guest a bottle of Chardonnay from friends’ nearby winery in coordinating blue and brown Jonathan Adler wine bags that also contained a map of the winery tour route from the movie Sideways.

There was one more decorative element that unified Emily and Greg’s wedding: the Chinese symbol for “double happiness.” It was imprinted on the save-the-date cards, the menu cards and projected onto the black dance floor—a reminder to all that signs (especially auspicious ones) are certainly worth taking to heart.